Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Restoring the Jewish narrative tradition: Religious Israeli novelists, 1967–2000
by Ginsburg, Bruce Alan, D.H.L., The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 2006, 202; 3255777
Abstract (Summary)

Though contemporary Israeli fiction is still dominated by secular writers, an increasing number of writers hailing from the religious community have made their presence felt over the last forty years. This study aims to identify a representative group of the most gifted among them; evaluate the content, style, and quality of their work; and consider their potential impact on the future of Jewish literature.

Beyond focusing on a segment of the creative community that to date has received scant scholarly attention, it proposes a set of criteria---first introduced by the Bible itself---against which to evaluate the quality of any text as a Jewish religious narrative. In this way, it establishes internal religio-literary markers by which to measure an author's work, rather than resorting to irrelevant labels based on his/her personal level of observance.

Using this objective model as a guide, the study then briefly traces the historic rise and fall of the Jewish religious narrative, concluding that it shined brightly during the First and Second Commonwealths, but was largely eclipsed by other literary forms following the destruction of the Second Temple. Though it showed signs of life during the Middle Ages and Renaissance and began to regain its footing during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the study argues that it has never fully rebounded since its first century fall. Acknowledging that, to date, S.Y. Agnon has best demonstrated the potential for a true restoration of the religious narrative tradition, it contends that its full actualization depends primarily on Israel's contemporary religious sector which possesses the requisite training in classical sources, reservoirs of religious memory, deep familiarity with the observant community and consciousness of the Divine which, on the whole, secularists do not.

The study then selects five novelists based on compatibility with the model, publishing history, time frame, and ideological/stylistic range. A close analysis of their work leads to the conclusion that for the first time in two millennia, we may be witnessing the revival of a native Israeli religious narrative tradition---one which could ultimately generate great works of authentically Jewish literature built on the spiritual, moral and aesthetic foundations of the Bible itself.

Indexing (document details)
School: The Jewish Theological Seminary of America
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 68/03, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Literature, Middle Eastern literature, Bible
Keywords: Hebrew, Israeli, Jewish, Narrative tradition, Novelists, Religious
Publication Number: 3255777
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